It's Fall! (Sort of, anyway...)

The official arrival of fall has those of us in the south eagerly anticipating some cooler temperatures.  Though we are in for some very nice weather this weekend (morning lows in the 40s!!), I'm afraid we can't turn off the air conditioning just yet.

So what do we do when all the stores have out pumpkins and winter clothing?  We fake it!  We dutifully buy our pumpkins and mums and begin to pull out long-buried pants and closed-toe shoes.  We wear hoodies and sweaters for the cool mornings, then shed them by lunchtime when we start to sweat.

Y'all might be able to guess that one of my favorite things about fall/winter is the food.  I love soups and stews, and the idea of a warm dinner simmering in the crockpot all day makes me giddy with excitement.

I have already broken out the fall recipes in our house (faking it!), and I thought I would share one of my favorites.  Plus, I don't think I have it written down anywhere and I am afraid of forgetting it one day, which would be nothing short of tragic.

I feel the need to add the disclaimer that I have no idea where I originally saw this recipe, but it has been adapted just a bit from the way I originally remember it.  If by chance I got it from you, thanks!  Also, I do NOT eat regular chili, so if the idea of chili turns you off but you like Mexican-style soups, this is definitely for you.

White Bean Chicken Chili
 2 or 3 cans Great Northern Beans, drained
16 oz. jar of salsa
8 oz. Pepper Jack cheese
chicken breast, cooked and shredded
10-12 oz. chicken broth
Edited to add:  CUMIN, 1/2 tsp.  (kind of important here, duh!)

Cube the cheese into small chunks, combine all of the above in the crockpot, and simmer at least four hours on low.  Top with shredded cheese and/or sour cream and serve with tortilla chips.

A couple of notes:  I use a small-ish crockpot, and this recipe fills it up.  I usually do two cans of beans and maybe about 3 cups of shredded chicken.  I add the chicken broth last, using however much it takes to fill the pot, usually a little more than half of a 16 oz. box.  

I could seriously eat this stuff at least once a week.  If you try it, let me know!

Now tell me...
What's your favorite cool-weather recipe?


What day is it again?

This past weekend was our somewhat-spontaneous family beach trip.  My family often took short, last-minute trips when I was young, but Jeremy's didn't, so a vacation without months of planning is relatively new for him. 

I'm back at work today, struggling to readjust from "beach time".  Coming back in on a Tuesday that feels like a Monday is never much fun, but today is especially disorienting.  It doesn't help that views like this are so fresh in my mind...

This was the girls' third trip to the Gulf Coast, and as I mentioned before, we hoped and prayed that this vacation went more smoothly than the first two did.  Thankfully, things finally fell into place for this family vacation, and we had a great trip!

We had a wonderful time, and Addison and Mackenzie were little angels...even on Friday, when they did not have a nap.  Addison slept in my arms through dinner that night, but I didn't mind a bit.  They slept well; they ate well (as well as they usually do, at least); and they had a blast playing in the sand and the pool.  We really could not have asked for a better trip.  Even the six-hour ride home, which was our biggest fear, went so much better than we dared to expect.  They were so exhausted that a lot of the time in the car was spent like this:

I have much more to say about our trip and lots of pictures too, of course, but it will have to wait until I'm feeling a little more caught up here in the real world.

How was your weekend?  Did I miss anything exciting?  (I mean, besides the Grey's Anatomy premiere, which is waiting on my DVR at home!)


Things to Remember: Comedy Edition

Addison and Mackenzie are absolutely hilarious lately.  They say or do something amusing every single day, and try as I might, it's hard to keep up with all the stories I want to remember.

I have started a running list on my phone where I try to make note of funny sayings, etc. as they happen, but so many things still slip by before I record them.  If I stopped to dwell on this thought too long (I'm forgetting things they will only do ONCE...they are only little for such a short time!), I could easily get a bit sad.

Instead, I will record a sampling of some of my favorite funnies...guaranteed to make me smile every single time.

Awhile back, Addison was eating a bit more than normal for her.  Jeremy made a comment along the lines of  "You must have a hollow leg to store all that food. "  So, a few days later...

Addison, pushing back her plate at the dinner table:  "My leg hurts"
Me:  "What's wrong with your leg?  Did you fall?"
A:  "I ate too much."

 I have no idea where it comes from, but when someone knocks or rings our doorbell, the girls hit the floor, hiding their faces, and pretending to be asleep.  They are "hiding" from our visitor, waiting to be found.

The girls come through the kitchen at my mom's, holding hands and squinching their eyes shut and calling out, "Where are Addison and Mackenzie?  Anybody seen them?"...which is exactly what we say when they are "hiding."
My cousin Lindsey was coming to babysit one night and the girls were in serious "hiding" mode, laying face-down in the corner of the living room.  They were doing well, not making a peep, until Lindsey said she would have to find someone to go get ice cream with her since A & M weren't home.  Mackenzie scrambles up as quickly as she can, saying, "Where's my ice cream at?"

As I think I've mentioned, Addison has trouble pronouncing the letter "f" at the beginning of a word.  She makes a "p" sound instead, resulting in some of my favorite Addison sayings, such as "poot snacks" and "pip pops" (meaning "fruit snacks" and "flip flops", of course)Well, apparently, she also makes the "p" sound for any letter that just won't come out right.

We went out for breakfast Saturday morning, to a place that has a breakfast buffet, complete with a soft-serve ice cream machine (they have a lunch buffet later on, so the ice cream isn't just for breakfast).  I grabbed a few bites of candy corn from the selection of ice cream toppings and was sharing with the girls.  After we had eaten it all, Addison announced that she wanted some more candy corn....except she had trouble with that second word, so she substituted a "P"...meaning my child was loudly requesting candy p*rn in the middle of the restaurant!

Two of my favorite misunderstandings/mispronunciations lately:
Addison spent all afternoon last Wednesday asking her NiNi for a "lollipop from the refrigerator".  NiNi looked and looked, but couldn't find any kind of lollipop in there, so she gave them a regular sucker...but that didn't do the trick.  When I got home and they told me about it, I was confused, especially because we don't even use the term "lollipop".  After a few minutes of thought, it hit me.  I asked Addison, "Do you want a popsicle from the refrigerator?"  Yep, that was it!

Lindsey drinks Gatorade all the time, and occasionally she shares with the girls.  One day at our house, the girls surrounded her, saying, "I want some of your alligator."  We were quite confused, thinking they were playing some kind of new game, until it finally dawned...  Alligator=Gatorade.

The other day, I came out of the bathroom to find the girls waiting at the door. 
"Did you pee pee in the potty, Mommy?" Mackenzie asks.
When I affirm that I did, she cheers, "Yay!  You get a treat!"

I love these silly girls!


My favorite thing about September...

September brings a lot of things:  college football, slightly less brutal temperatures, color-changing leaves, and the excitement of an approaching fall.

Thankfully, it also brings a new lineup of great tv to help me fill those long evenings when we all know I should be doing laundry or scrubbing the kitchen floors. 

Though I'm sad that my favorite, Bones, won't be back until November, there is plenty to look forward to this week...Entertainment Weekly was kind enough to lay it all out in a nice, neat format here, in case you're wondering when your favorite show returns.

credit:  www.cbs.com

Monday night is the mutual favorite night of tv in our house.  Jeremy works, so I DVR all the CBS shows:  How I Met Your Mother, Mike and Molly, Two and a Half Men (not a must-see for us, but we will watch to see how the new character fares), and Hawaii Five-0.  When J started watching Five-O, I didn't expect to like it much.  Surprisingly, it's one of my favorites, and I enjoy that we can watch it together.  2 Broke Girls will be added to the CBS lineup, and it looks pretty decent, so we'll watch and see how it goes.

I also got caught up in The Lying Game on ABC Family, so it's on the DVR list for Monday too.  I don't watch any reality tv, so a trashy teenage drama here and there is okay, right??

credit:  www.fox.com
 Tuesday night is reserved for Glee and Raising Hope, which in my opinion, is one of the funniest and most underrated shows on tv.  WATCH IT...you'll thank me!  The New Girl, also on Fox, looks promising, so I'll add it to the Tuesday night list.

credit:  www.ew.com
Wednesday used to be the night I had nothing to watch, so it was when I typically caught up on DVR'd shows from earlier in the week.  However, I caught Up All Night and Free Agents last week, and both were good enough to keep me watching for awhile.  Jeremy also liked Up All Night, so it may be something we watch together on the weekends.  Harry's Law moved to Wednesday, but it's one we often save for the weekend as well.  So, really, it looks like Wednesday night can still be free and I can save the shows to watch later with Jeremy.

Sadly, I won't count Law and Order: SVU among my lineup anymore, since the fabulous Detective Stabler won't be back.  I have a slight girl-crush on Mariska Hargitay, but I hear she might be working her way out as well, so there's not much reason to watch this season.

credit: www.tvline.com

Thursday is the night of 'classic' favorites for me:  Grey's Anatomy and BonesGrey's is over-the-top at times, but I just can't quit it.  The Big Bang Theory is a seriously awesome show too, and I'm glad it's characters are getting some recognition.

Friday-Sunday, ehhh, these nights are for catching up from the week.  Occasionally, we will turn on Dateline or 48 Hours Mystery, but in general, I'm glad to take a break from tv for the weekend.

It's obvious I have a busy week ahead, but I'm excited to have good tv to look forward to (is this sad?  I'm thinking maybe a little!).  After all, there are only so many Friends reruns and House Hunters episodes a person can watch in a given week.

So, what's on your schedule for the fall?  What shows am I missing out on?


(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

The girls got to go to their first high school football game on Friday night.  My cousin Lindsey and I took them just before halftime, thinking we would stand outside the fence and let them watch the bands perform.  They were having so much fun, we decided it would be worth it to take them in for a little while.  We called a friend who had two extra season passes, and she met us at the gate.  We stayed for a little over an hour, and the girls loved it!


Of course, the band was their favorite part, and as soon as they finished the halftime show, A & M started asking for them to "sing again!"

The first thing the girls asked when they woke up Saturday morning was, "We go ballgame 'gin soon?"  Yes, baby girls, soon!

A few more random pictures from the last week or so...

Oreo mouth!

Slightly cleaner face

(M loved this baby playmat so much it didn't make it to the yard sale this time...I think I will have to stash it away when she's not looking to get rid of it)


My Favorite Escape

Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with what I should be doing or what I need to be doing that I end up doing nothing at all.  Tell me you know the feeling? 

For instance, right now I should either be folding clothes or grading quizzes for my online class.  It's been a long and tiring day though, so I'm crashed here on the couch instead, waiting on the Braves to (hopefully) win this game so I can head to the bedroom with my book.  I just feel like retreating for awhile, ignoring everything I don't feel like doing.  I'll get over it soon I know, but for now, I'm pretty much being a slacker.

Sooo...how about I tell you what I've been reading lately in my effort to avoid household chores? 

My favorite recent read is There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones.  (I just love her name...Jenny B. Jones sounds like someone I could be friends with.  And how cute is that cover?!)

This is a YA (young adult) novel that deals with some pretty heavy topics--family tragedy, eating disorders, and searching for a seemingly distant God--without delving into the melodramatic or feeling too preachy, which is a common complaint I have about Christian fiction and some YA stories.  I knew from reading the description that I would either love this book or hate it; thankfully, I pretty much loved it.

Finley is a young lady struggling to come to terms with a family tragedy and to find her direction in the world. She feels distant from God and overwhelmed in her own life. Finley hopes that in Ireland, retracing the steps her brother took years before, she will find the missing pieces to put her life back together.

I really enjoyed this novel and found it very appropriate for the targeted age group (teenagers, mostly). The romance between Finley and Beckett (the misunderstood movie star) develops slowly and believably, as does Finley's relationship with Mrs. Sweeney, an elderly woman Finley meets through a school project.

Writing in the dialect of both teenagers and the Irish must have been a tricky maneuver, but it is done well in this book. The brogue is not too thick or off-putting, and the teenage characters sound believable (for the most part) without being annoying. There are several opportunities for the author to get preachy about difficult life issues, but it never felt like she was trying to hard to make a point or uncover a deep "life lesson".

A few minor complaints:
(1) I would have liked to see more character development for Erin, Finley's "host sister". Erin is a present character in the story, but we only see her in a very superficial, one-sided portrayal...we get none of her thoughts or true character.
(2) There are hints of a scandal and a wild streak in Finley's recent past, but no details are revealed. I want to know the gossip!
(3) Will, the departed brother, is painted as a sort of saint. I just kept thinking, "CNN correspondent...really?" I think he was supposed to be around 23 when he died.  I get that he did good things at a young age, but he could have been a bit more believable.
(4) Beckett is a likable character, and I like that we see why Finley is attracted to him. But vampire movies? He is pretty obviously a Robert Pattinson-type, but I would have liked to see him portrayed as just a teen-heartthrob actor, rather than throwing the vampires in there...it felt a little unnecessary.
(5) The characters speak in a dramatic tone at times, obviously written by an adult trying to sound like a mature, thoughtful teenager. Then again, teenagers DO sound very melodramatic at times, so it's kind of realistic, I suppose.

All in all, I found this book to be an enjoyable and emotional read, without being too depressing or gut-wrenching...which is not always the case when dealing with issues this book tackles. I will definitely be recommending it to my students in youth group.

**Disclosure:  I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.  There You'll Find Me will be available for purchase in October 2011.

Your turn!  Tell me something you've read recently.  And have you been to Ireland?  It's always been on my list of places to visit, and reading this book makes me want to hop a plane and find a cute little village pub.



I just had four days off work, and I am pretty sure I would be less tired this morning if I had worked for the last eleven days straight.  That's only a slight exaggeration, by the way.  I generally have a rule against drinking coke before lunch on the weekdays, and I never buy one from the machine at work.  And yet...

Still, it was a pretty great weekend, all things considered.

Friday morning, the girls and I hung out until Jeremy got up to take them to his grandparents for a visit.  We had intended to visit the bakery for some fresh donuts, but A & M were feeling particularly snuggly, so we piled into the rocker in their room to read books and sing songs.  It was a great way to kick off the weekend!  Once Jeremy got up, he took off with the girls to visit his grandparents and take them to his mom's for the weekend.

I spent the rest of Friday hauling boxes loaded down with yard sale items to my aunt's house across town.  It was a long, hot day.  I had to spend part of the afternoon laying inside under the fan after getting too hot outside (I'm a delicate little flower when it comes to the heat, you know).  I had a couple of people ask to come by and look through my baby items Friday night, so I ended up making almost $200 before the yard sale even started.  That's how I like to do business.  : )

Saturday began early and ended late, but it was totally worth it.  I surpassed the basic goal I set for the amount I hoped to earn, and came within $100 of the ultimate dream goal.  Bottom line:  we can either (a) buy a wooden swing set or (b) have a great time on vacation without worrying about what we are spending.  I think we are going with option b...we aren't totally sold on the swing set, but vacation is definitely happening, so in the short term, some of the profit will be spent on vacation.  We won't go all-out-crazy spending money on vacation, but I do plan to visit the outlets in Foley to see what kind of fall/spring deals I can find for the girls (and for me).

AND the extra cash means I can eat all the crab cakes I want at The Original Oyster House without feeling bad about spending too much on dinner! 

The yard sale was officially open for business on Sunday as well, but thanks to Tropical Storm Lee, we had to pack up around noon, meaning we missed the after-church traffic.  Oh well...I was quite ready to pack up by that time anyway; we all were.  We barely beat the downpour, but I got the remnants of the girls' clothes boxed up (into THREE Rubbermaid totes...down from about 15 to start with!), and we loaded everything else up on a trailer to be donated to the Salvation Army.  The girls had come home just before the rain started, and they loved getting to "help" and play in the rain a bit.  I loved seeing my wild girls after two days away...I really missed them this weekend!

I was so thankful yesterday was a holiday and we didn't have to go anywhere, what with the 7-10 inches of rain and all.  I don't know exactly how much we ended up with, but you could have paddled a small canoe through my backyard at one point, so I'd say it was a lot.  Jeremy had to go to work, but the girls and I did not leave the house all day.  After a weekend apart, it was just what we needed.

We stayed in our pajamas, watched Shrek, made brownies, took coloring books out to the front porch, played "hair" (they brushed my hair...not very tenderly, I might add), and made a couch pillow fort.  After a marathon-length nap, we ended the day with a crock pot of potato soup and my mom's cornbread.

Coloring on the porch
Rainy day activities


Pillow fort!

How was your weekend?


On Fostering Individuality in Twins

I have been thinking a lot lately about how to encourage Addison and Mackenzie's sense of individuality.  The issue seems to be one that most twin parents think about at one time or another, whether their twins are fraternal or identical, but as a mom of identical girls, it is especially important to me that they are not always seen as "the twins" or treated like a carbon copy of one another.

There is a book we read often at bedtime, Just in Case You Ever Wonder, that tells a child how special they are and how their parents and God will always love them and take care of them.  There is a passage that says something like this...

If you looked all over the world, in every home, there would be no one like you.  No one with your eyes, no one with your mouth, no one with your laugh...
 It's always at this part that I wonder when one of the girls will begin to realize that someone does have her eyes, nose, and mouth?  I put emphasis on the "laugh" part, because that's one very distinct feature between the girls.  (I should point out that their eyes and mouths actually look pretty different to me too...but other people aren't going to notice it, and I know they are going to grow up hearing comments about how they look just alike.)

I know the girls don't (and hopefully won't ever!) understand that some people may see it as a disadvantage that they had to share everything, including their looks, from the moment they entered this world.  I hope, I hope, I hope that they see it as a distinct advantage...they will always have someone around to talk to or play with...they will always have a friend close by and someone to take their side. And after all, they won't understand what it's like not to have to share everything with 'sissy'; it's just a fact of life for them.

Still, I want to make sure my girls know that I love them equally and individually.  I don't love them more or less because they're twins; I love them each for exactly WHO they are.  I want to make sure we allow the opportunity and encouragement for each of them to pursue the things they are interested in and to find what makes them happy, regardless of whether or not it is the same thing her sister enjoys.  If one loves dance and the other loves gymnastics...wonderful!  If they both love music and want to learn to play an instrument...equally wonderful!  

I guess what I'm saying is that I want them to come to the determination of who they are and who they want to be without necessarily regarding their twinship.  Yes, their twin bond will undoubtedly influence them throughout their lives, and that's awesome...I just want to be sure that it doesn't define them.

My sister sent me this on Pinterest that I think kind of sums up my feelings on the issue.  I'm thinking of printing this quote and framing it for their bedroom...kind of a mantra of sorts:

Source: etsy.com via Deanna on Pinterest

This is just a start on this broad subject that I'm sure will be present in my thoughts for many, many years.  But I'm curious...Have you thought about how to foster individuality in your twins?  How do you plan to handle it in your family?